“I tell you, among those born of women none is greater than John. Yet the one who is least in the kingdom of God is greater than he.” ~ Jesus (Luke 7:23)
Sunday June 24, 2012 – Solemnity of St. John the Baptist
St. Luke tells us in his Gospel that John was conceived in a miraculous manner and that his parents were Zachary and Elizabeth. He spent his youth in the desert, and at the age of 30 came to Judea and preached near the Jordan. He exhorted the people to do penance because the kingdom of God was at hand. He baptized the Savior in the Jordan. He rebuked Herod Antipas for taking to himself Herodias, the wife of his brother Philip; at the request of the dancing daughter of Herodias he was imprisoned and beheaded.
John the Baptist is the only saint whose birthday is observed by the Church; he is the only saint who was cleansed from original sin in his mother’s womb and who consequently was holy at his birth. The Gospel describes the joy caused by his birth, and recalls that at the circumcision he did not receive the name of his father, as was customary among the Jews, but the name designated by the angel. He was to be the precursor of the Lord, a mission prefigured by that of Isaias and destined for him by God even before his birth.
The Introit tells us that God made John’s “mouth like a sharp sword.” John was uncompromising in his attitude towards sin, condemned fearlessly his incredulous and adulterous generation, and accepted martyrdom rather than flatter or condone the vices of the rich and the mighty.